When people in Mérida tell me they’re headed to Playa, they don’t just mean la playa (the beach). They’re saying it with a capital P, and it’s short for Playa del Carmen. We’re just a half an hour from Progreso and its Gulf coastline, but lots of people drive four hours in the other direction and hit the Caribbean side.
When Paul and I come to Yucatán, we’re Centro-focused. We don’t take a lot of excursions. Many of our guesthouse companions had seen more of the surrounding haciendas, ruins and beaches in a few days than we have in two and-a-half years and seven trips. We did, however, take a city bus for a very quick-and-easy ride to Progreso to see the malecón.
And although the beach and its walkway were pretty, and we had probably the best shrimp ever at Flamingos, we were underwhelmed by the city as a whole. (One person advised: Go there, see it, and turn around and we practically did.) On Trip 6, we took a great William Lawson tour of Progreso and points east, and even then the only time we were really drawn in was when we stopped at Telchac Puerto. Not quite “unspoiled,” the towns’ sleepy qualities are both an advantage and disadvantage. There were some attractive villas being built, but they seemed deserted and unappreciated. No signs indicating surfing, scuba diving or much else — such is the nature of a Gulf shoreline whose limestone shelf requires a four-mile pier for ships to dock. Few restaurants, little sign of nightlife, which are things that Playa apparently excels in.
So the main attraction is fresh shrimp and the breeze … which is probably enough to get us back there one day. We are, after all, homebodies who like shrimp. What more could we ask for?
We’ve been to the Caribbean (and Paul’s family heritage is Caribbean) but other than a quick ride from the Cancun airport to the city’s bus terminal, we haven’t seen much of that part of the Peninsula. It looked pretty from the sky, I can tell you! I haven’t seen much debate online between Gulf and Caribbean loyalists. Maybe one can start here.